Ross Lee – from pound shop to perfection
Seeing Ross Lee, standing in his gloriously luscious garden it’s hard to believe that less than six years ago the small plot was little more than grass. For Ross, moving into his own house with a garden was the beginning of a new obsession…
“It was just grass and a shed, I knew nothing about plants – I’d had a hydrangea but thought I’d killed it when it went brown. Then I got a little rose in a box from the Pound Shop and put it in the ground at the back. In the first year it went crazy producing over 300 raspberry ripple clustered blooms. It’s still the best rose in the garden, not least because it inspired me to find out more about how things grow.
That same year I bought a blow up pool at the end of the summer – I filled it and rarely used it because the weather changed and when I eventually took it down it had left a dead circle of grass on the lawn. Instead of reseeding it I decided to plant up the space … and that was how it began.
I started going to car boot sales – you can get some excellent plants at the ones near me – and to garden centres to see what was in season, buying what I instinctively liked, that made me happy, and soon plants became my hobby and my garden grew! I’ve made so many new friends through Facebook and Reddit communities online, discovering hints and tips that I could apply to my garden and then, eventually, sharing my own garden progress. I got so much positive feedback that I really felt I was creating something good.
My mum was really encouraging and suggested I contact the National Garden Scheme to see if I could open the garden for them. I was really nervous but when Jenny, the County Organiser, came in June she was really enthusiastic and I opened for first time last August as a ‘pop-up’.
It was mental! The thought of having people in the garden was scary but it was such a high. Everyone was so complimentary and even asked me for advice! It was amazing to think that I had inspired other people.”
Sharing his garden tips with us, Ross says: The garden is so small and so packed with plants that you have to be ruthless. If a plant’s not performing I’ll sell it at the next open day and I currently have 100 pots all waiting to be added or removed from the scheme. Despite its abundance, the garden is really low maintenance, the key thing is watering, right down to the roots.
But Ross’s garden has done more than open his eyes to plants: What I love most about my garden is that I can have a bad day at work and come home to a safe place – it transports me, it’s an escape. I think I’ll just sit down and unwind but there’s always something I want to do. The only negative is the limited size. I love planning and changing things and if I do get a moment or two in the hammock I’ll work on the plans for my dream acres; divided by hedging into different ‘rooms’ with a formal garden, Italian garden, rose garden, cottage garden, pond garden… I’m so ambitious and I’ll keep working hard to achieve my dream.
Before owning his own space Ross had never really thought about or noticed plants or gardens but his now bountiful plot has helped him in a number of ways, as he explains: When you are younger it’s sometimes hard to know who you are, a lot of teenagers struggle with mental health issues and for me the garden has had a huge calming effect, reducing stress and anxiety. Even if you don’t have a garden, houseplants can be a great thing to get interested in and start caring for.
Ross recommends: Indoors, Monstera (some people know it as a cheese plant) it’s so cool looking and outside, hardy banana, it grows really fast over one season and will even bear fruit (which, sadly, you can’t eat) but it’s a great looking plant. All the tropicals look great and are a bit different.
So, did Ross strike lucky with his fertile plot or is there more to it than meets the eye? It’s heavy clay so I had to dig out two foot and added compost and manure and grit for drainage and I continue to feed the soil well to keep it perfect for planting.
You can enjoy the amazing fruits of Ross’s labour when his garden at 12 Chapel Farm Close opens as part of Gislingham Gardens in Suffolk By Arrangement this August and September.
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You can follow Ross on X @Rossleegardener, on Reddit, on his YouTube channel or instagram Ross lee (@rossleegardener) • Instagram photos and videos